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Every year, entrepreneurs start more than half a million companies in America. Only 200 of them will ever reach $100 million in revenue. Carey Smith knows what it takes. He led a company from $0 to $250 million in less than 20 years. What’s even more unusual is that he did it without kowtowing to investors or anyone else. Carey says his “secret” to success is just common sense, and he’s happy to share it with anyone willing to consider an entirely different kind of business plan. Interested? Read on.

MAKING PRODUCTS,

NOT PROMISES.

REDEFINING

Capitalism

Carey is an ardent defender of capitalism — as long as it’s the good kind. Good capitalism is founded on something as basic as the Golden Rule. It’s the belief that people and profits need and benefit each other. It shows itself in quality products and service, as well as generous treatment of employees and suppliers. As a CEO, Carey paid wages 30% higher than the national average and offered employees constant opportunities to grow. He also set up a Stock Appreciation Rights program to give loyal employees a stake in the company. The result: A payout of approximately $50 million to hundreds of employees.

DISRUPTING

Markets

Carey succeeded by shaking up a market where the status quo wasn’t good enough. He was selling one product to cool industrial buildings when he stumbled upon a better one: large-diameter overhead fans. He quickly revolutionized industrial comfort as factories and barns abandoned noisy floor fans in favor of energy-efficient, slow-moving overhead giants. When his customers said they needed better lights, he developed them too, selling them direct, unlike anyone else. And in less than five years, he turned a revolutionary residential ceiling-fan design into a $60 million enterprise.

What I believe.

THE LONG GAME.

I’m completely against starting a business with the sole intent of cashing out. That’s very short-term thinking. Starting a business offers excitement and intellectual challenge, but it also offers the opportunity to change people’s lives.

THE LONG GAME.

I’m completely against starting a business with the sole intent of cashing out. That’s very short-term thinking. Starting a business offers excitement and intellectual challenge, but it also offers the opportunity to change people’s lives.

AN ENTREPRENEUR IS
AN ATTITUDE.

Problems sustain me, turmoil energizes me and a monomaniacal focus on making quality products makes me happy. I love waking up in the morning wondering what the hell is going to happen next. If that sounds good to you, welcome to the lifetime disruptors club.

YOU CAN’T TEACH CURIOSITY.

What defines employees' success isn't what they know when they join the company, but what they're interested in. I'd take one aggressively curious English major over three well-trained but complacent engineers any day.

DON’T GET LOST IN THE CROWD.

My favorite business metaphor is blue ocean strategy: companies earn success not through competition, but by seeking out new markets, or blue oceans, where competition is scarce if not irrelevant.

THE LOST ART OF SHARING.

I once worked at a company where the vice president told us they could afford to pay us twice as much, but they didn’t because they knew we would work for less. I knew then I needed to start my own company, one that would show respect to employees.

A GOOD IDEA IS JUST THE START.

Real business success generally requires at least two very different kinds of expertise: a good idea or invention, and someone who sees its potential and has the ability to produce it in quantity and sell it to the world.

On the stage.

Carey has never shied away from sharing his contrarian views on how to run a successful business. That’s why he’s a sought-after keynote speaker and panelist, who leaves audiences energized to grow their own companies. Looking to add a unique perspective to your lineup? Carey can speak on:

  • How to fund your venture without giving up control

  • Why you should cut out the middlemen that stand between you and your customers

  • How to succeed in tech thousands of miles from Silicon Valley

  • Why your brand is more valuable than your patents

  • How embracing a “fail fast” approach can actually help you succeed

  • Why silver-platter customer service is worth the cost

  • Why you should pay your people well and give them perks that matter — or get out of business

And more. Want Carey to speak at your conference or event? Email scott@jcareysmith.com

In the Media.

Carey Writes for Inc.com

In a regular column titled "On the Contrary," Carey doesn't mince words when discussing business practices he finds questionable, if not downright deplorable. ...read more

Why Big Ass Fans Pays 30 Percent Above the National Average

"Workers have returned the favor by sticking around, and not just for high pay. To head off boredom and burnout, Big Ass Fans encourages people to move from one job to another." ...read more

Carey Writes for The Wall Street Journal

"Spending time recruiting and ultimately coddling investors creates distractions. Spend your time on your business — develop your product, develop your brand, develop your strategy." ...read more

Carey Smith, on Becoming the Team’s ‘Hyperlink’

“When I was in high school going into my senior year, I got this hot idea that I knew how to organize a school better than the administrators.” ...read more

Carey Addresses Global Business Conferences

"If a company's strategy is the cake, then culture is the oven in which it's baked," Carey told attendees at the Sage Summit as part of a keynote panel discussion with Hall of Fame basketball star turned entrepreneur Magic Johnson and actress turned entrepreneur Jessica Alba. ...read more

Carey Addresses Global Business Conferences

"If a company's strategy is the cake, then culture is the oven in which it's baked," Carey told attendees at the Sage Summit as part of a keynote panel discussion with Hall of Fame basketball star turned entrepreneur Magic Johnson and actress turned entrepreneur Jessica Alba. ...read more

Don't Be in Business to Make Money

Carey explains why he isn't afraid to go against the grain and take risks in business. Watch Now.

CONTACT.